You can see Porto Santo most clearly from Madeira on the eastern side. It sits only 40km to the northeast of Madeira and its character couldn't be more different. Temperatures here rarely fall below 20 degrees centigrade, and Porto Santo is served by its own airport just outside Porto Santo's main centre Cidade Vila Baleira.
Porto Santo is relatively flat, although there's a few peaks you can walk up. Most visitors come for the glorious stretch of long sandy beach along Porto Santo's south coast! Porto Santo has developed a reputation as a health resort. The pace is leisurely here - hiring a bike is the best way to see parts of the island which is just 6.8 miles/11km long and 4.3 miles/7km wide. Porto Santo tends to get the all year round guaranteed sunshine. Being so flat, it doesn't have the microclimate variations pertaining to Madeira. Relaxation and lazy beach holidays are on the menu here, with if you can muster a visit to Christopher Columbus' house here, walking and some bike riding and boat trips. Sounds good hey!
Porto Santo's endless stretch of golden sandy beach (the sand underfoot is soft and said to have therapeutic qualities!) is around 9km/5.6 miles long. This combined with Porto Santo's mild climate, rainfall is very low here unlike Madeira, and warm sea temperatures makes Porto Santo an ideal beach holiday island retreat. Spas and the wellness theme are big here too, another string to Porto Santo's emphasis on relaxation. Visitors should note that there is little natural shade on Porto Santo's beach, so you're well advised to either bring an umbrella for shade or hire one of the palm umbrellas. Amenities are generally good along the beach with a selection of cafes, toilets and showers. Swimming here is pure pleasure indeed!
Watersports are good here and include a choice of game fishing, diving of course in Porto Santo's warm clear wateers, sailing, boat trips, canoeing and rowing, jet ski and water skiing and windsurfing and kite surfing.
Many of Porto Santo's walking footpaths have been restored in recent years, particularly those to the north. Walks around the Northeast peaks on Porto Santo are particularly popular. Recommended is the climb to Pico do Castelo then on the circular route which takes in Facho, Gandaia and the Juliana and Vila peaks. It's a long walk though, taking about 5 hours. See the Porto Santo Tourist Guide weblink right for details on this walk.
There's two ways to get to Porto Santo. The quickest is to fly, and if you're connecting straight on from Madeira Airport then this way is the most efficient. Flight times are around 15 minutes from Madeira to Porto Santo, and they are regular (around 2 a day).
Alternatively you can take the Porto Santo Ferry which has the advantage of being able to take cars across (see Madeira budget car hire weblink right). The Porto Santo ferry takes around 2 hours from Funchal and runs daily. (see weblink right)
Most of the bustle on Porto Santo goes on around the little port and main town cluster of Vila Baleira. All things Christopher Columbus are made a meal of here, especially on Rua Cristovao Colombo where his supposed one time house now the Christopher Columbus House Museum is situated. Evidence that Columbus actually lived here for a time is somewhat thin, however he certainly visited here around the late 1470s. The museum is open Tuesdays to Fridays, 10am to 6pm, and on weekends and public holidays from 10am to 1pm. Tel. 291 983 405 for details.
Moving down to the southern tip of Porto Santo beach at Ponta da Calheta the coast becomes a little more wild and ragged. Watching sunsets over Ilheu de Baixo our da Cal island is popular down here, and there is a restaurant where you can sit at your leisure.
Opposite Vila Baleira on the north coast sits Fonte dea Areia Springs. Reach them via a bus to Camacha then walking across. The waters here are therapeutic and mineral rich, and they are bottled and sold in Madeira restaurants.
You can pretty much tour the island of Porto Santo in half a day by car or taxi. Alternatively hire a bike and take your time. As well as a choice of watersports around the beach, there's a choice of walking trails and options including hauling yourself up peaks such as Pico do Castelo.
Porto Santo's one golf course is to the south of the island. They didn't have as much trouble here on Porto Santo finding a suitable spot for a golf course - being nice and flat as it is here, unlike Madeira. This golf course is an 18 hole course with a Par 72. Check the Porto Santo Golf weblink right for details.
Porto Santo Golfe, Sitio das Marinhas, Apartado 174, 9400-162 Porto Santo. Tel. 291 983 778.